Sunday Riley Juno v.s. Best Face Forward Natural Serum Oil

Every year, when Autumn approaches and rain seems to be pouring daily, I start my regime of Retin-A (tretinoin). I started using tretinoin in my early-mid 30s, then stopped for about 2 years when I was pregnant and breastfeeding my son. I just re-started the treatment again last year, so this is my second year around post-pregnancy/lactation. I do not use Retin-A during Summer months/when it starts to get sunny regularly -- even the strongest sunscreen are not reliable, especially if you are outdoor a lot like me, so I much rather just stop all together and restart again.

I have always used the lowest strength (0.025% cream). One uses Retin-A gradually: I normally start once a week (with the smallest amount possible) for a week, then twice a week for another week, then three times a week for another week and so on. The goal is to be able to use this daily so the skin starts getting the anti-aging benefit.

Inevitably, whenever I start, I always experience peeling, burning, and redness, especially for the first few months. When that happen, I give my skin a break for however many day it takes until it is back to normal and then re-start. It is really one step forward, two steps back process with Retin-A.

During that recovery time, nothing seems comfortable. Everything burns -- even those skin care that claims to have been formulated with sensitive skin in mind. This is when facial oil comes in. In the past, I've used straight up jojoba oil, coconut oil, or La Roche Posay Cicaplast on top of Hada Labo toner and cover the area lightly with Aquaphor or CeraVe cream. This year, I experimented with more sophisticated facial oil, avoiding those combinations that contains essential oil. I came across two this year that I tried: Best Face Forward Natural Serum Oil and the über popular Sunday Riley Juno.

Best Face Forward Natural Serum Oil ($40/1 fl oz)

I came across this from The Non-Blonde (Gaia)'s website and she spoke highly of this oil. I ordered the sample which is very generous in size (see picture above). Half-fluid ounces lasted me at least two weeks of continual use.

The yellow oil is rather slippy but get absorbed readily in about half an hour. It does not smell like anything other than perhaps a bit herbal. It does contain some aromatic essential oils but they did not sting or bother my sensitive, raw, red face. I think ladies with normal, normal-dry skin will enjoy this oil, those with normal-oily skin can perhaps use less and still find this oil not feeling too oily.

Ingredients (per website -- not listed according to amount)
Argan Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Hazelnut Oil, Rosehips Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Pomegranate Seed Oil, White Camellia Oil, Marula Oil, Kalahari Melon Seed Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Sea Buckthorn Oil, Rose Essential Oil, Helchrysum Essential Oil, Carrot Oil, Carrot Seed oil, Cranberry Seed Oil, Red Raspberry Seed Oil, Kukui Nut oil, Rice Bran Oil.

Sunday Riley Juno ($125/1 fl oz)

A whopping $85 above the BFF, this oil boasted lots of anti-oxidant rich oils. Unlike BFF, this formula does not contain EO and smells, indeed, like cumin/broccoli (think of Indian food) -- worry not, the scent does not linger and does not bother me the least bit.

Despite of Juno's claim to be "lightweight, fast-absorbing oils," the greenish-yellow serum feels rather thick, definitely more viscous than BFF and the oil slick lingers, even overnight. It says that it is meant for all skin type, but if I have normal-oily, or even slightly oily-but otherwise normal skin, I would stay away from this because, as I said, the oils are not readily absorbed. YMMV but I highly suggest you try a sample before committing to the whole expensive bottle.

Other than that, Juno does not sensitize my skin. It gives a nice cushion sandwich between the hyaluronic lotion and the occlusive cream on top, cocooning my skin.


I cannot vouch for the anti-oxidant properties of these two oils. I don't find my skin heal faster with one or the other, nor worsening with one or the other. You know how much I love affordable skin care but ultimately, I chose Juno over BFF for its virtue of being thicker/slicker than BFF. My dry skin just slurps up BFF so readily, it has yet a chance to produce an effective barrier. I can do facial massage with Juno and I can still feel some residual oil on my face. So, sometimes when the brand's claim does not measure up, it can be a good thing. For those who would like a more affordable alternative, I think BFF is really worth a try. In fact, I think I will switch up to BFF comes Summer and go back to Juno during Winter months.


Omega -9 fatty acids are naturally produced in human body, whereas omega -3 and -6 need to be supplemented from diet. Omega -3 is produced in limited quantities in mammals, whereas omega -6 is abundant in animal source or farmed animal which are fed grains. For example, farmed salmon, which are grain-fed, actually has more omega -6 than omega -3 fatty acids, compared to wild salmon which is rich in omega -3. All of them are the derivative of arachidonic acid that acts as cellular messenger in the body. Interestingly, arachidonic acid are also converted to prostaglandins which is a signaling molecule involved in inflammation. Omega -6 is mostly involved in inflammatory reactions because it is more abundant and readily available.

Studies of the role of omega -3, -6, and -9 fatty acids in topical products, particularly for wound protection/healing, has been quite limited. In fact, I've only found one here, and the result is not that spectacular. If I were you, I wouldn't get caught up so much of the hype of all these omega oils in skin care. I would focus on the function and whether or not particular product suits the needs of your skin. Ingested omega -3 fatty acids supplementation is a whole other story.

If you feel particularly geeky: the correct way of pronouncing omega -3, -6, -9 are "omega minus three," "omega minus six," "omega minus nine." That is due to the conventional nomenclature of unsaturated bond in fatty acids. But, I have yet to come across a person actually saying, "This omega minus three capsules are very stinky!"


Thankful Tuesday

I can't believe I haven't wrote any gratitude post for this year, better late than never!

Last week, I had a mini catastrophe at my place: the bedroom carpet was flooded by water from leaky humidifier which I run overnight. I didn't know how much water leaked, all I knew was the whole area looked and felt like a swamp. Panic, I called some of my friends who, out of the generosity of their own heart, came with pouring support and suggestions, even though I know many of them have two kids, another with newborn (who only slept for 2 hours the previous night) and are busy moms themselves. Even the Tod's preschool pitched in by lending me a Shop Vac!!

It never ceases to amaze me how generous people are, perhaps daily, but especially in the moment of need -- all I need was to ask for help. Crisis was averted, I was able to suck out water out of the carpet and dried the area. Now, it seemed like an old memory.

For that, I am especially thankful and grateful -- no matter how much is your possession or what you do in life, good friends are worth their weight in gold.

Some other random gratitude:

  • Streaks of sunny days, when the Tod and I enjoyed chilly mornings in the park.
  • Cuddling with the Tod before bed.
  • Hot Pot restaurant, yum!!
  • The spacious feeling after decluttering the house (we just did one where I got rid about 6 large garbage bag-full of the Tod's stuff and other odd things I found in his closet).
  • Time: to knit, to relax with a book (I'm reading Nurture Shock), and to sip some tea.
  • Silence
Gratitude shared are gratitude multiplied, so share with us your gratitude for this week!


MOTW: The Minimalistic

Those of you who read this blog frequently knows I'm a fan of minimalistic living. Sadly, the most maximalistic (read cluttered) part of my life surrounds makeup and skin care. This week, after detoxing my handbag, diaper bag (DONE! woo hoo..) and other places where I stash makeup, I start off new with minimalistic MOTW -- minimalistic in terms of the number of products used, not the look itself, perhaps more aptly titled: MOTW with minimum products.

  • Skin is prepped with Charlotte Tilbury's Magic cream, followed by Cover FX Natural Finish Oil Free Foundation. Continuing on the theme from last week's MOTW, I still think this Cover FX has a lot of potential and I'm "warming up" to the idea that the trade off of foundation with buildable coverage is the dry texture that stays put. Still loving the pigmentation of this foundation, which can double as concealer, making it super easy for me to prep my base in one swoop. This is where Magic cream does its magic to my dry skin. 
  • Eyes is done with one color, Burberry Taupe Brown to intensify the lash lines, top and bottom. If I so wish, I can also use this on the socket. The brush to accomplish this is Tom Ford Eye Contour Brush no 12 -- a do-it-all brush in my book (see my comment on Bronzer Bunny's recent post on the same brush here). 
  • Sweeps of Maybelline Collosal, to fit the mood.
  • Guerlain Rouge G in Madame Reve circa Autumn few years back completes the lips and cheeks.
Five products + 1 brush, that is the minimum number of products used today. How low can you go? Wishing you all a wonderful week!


Empties 2014

Saving empties for posts is excruciating -- hats off to the many bloggers out there who are blogging about empties. Yes, we go through products here at the Land, but certainly not the kind the kind we'd blog about: they are mostly staple products that we use daily. I rarely change my skin care products (apart from seasonal changes), and my skin is on the sensitive side that I shy away from most samples (unless it is a product I am really interested in trying or had tried before). 

These are new (to me) products I tried during the entire year of 2014. If anything, let this post be my future reference in case I want to repurchase any of these products.


Biore UV Aqua Rich
I bought this from my trip to Asia last year and promptly used the whole thing in a matter of two weeks or so (the bottle is so tiny!). This has the basic Asian formula for sunscreen: film former + alcohol + sebum absorber + chemical and physical sunscreen combo. It leaves a matte finish despite the claim of being "aqua rich." I find this drying, but in the sweltering heat, it worked wonder and even more wonderful as makeup base. Probably won't repurchase for Northern climate/weather.

Hada Labo UV SPF50+ PA +++ UV Moist Emulsion
Purchased this from Asia and have been repurchasing this via various sellers in Amazon. The bottle is tiny (why are Asian sunscreens only come in 50 mL bottles?), I go through this thing about once every other month if not sooner. This is my now staple sunscreen product. This liquid "shake the bottle before apply" formula features chemical & physical (Octinoxate, Uvinul A plus and zinc oxide) sunscreen in a heavy silicone base. I put this last after my skin care and never bother to wait before piling on foundation on top. It is unscented, does not contain alcohol, has dewy, cushiony finish on the skin. Probably not suitable for normal-oily/oily skin.

Hada Labo UV SPF50+ PA++++ UV Creamy Gel
Don't let the "creamy" part fool you, this is an alcohol-based gel chemical sunscreen. It goes on water-light but yes, the alcohol is a dead killer for me. I used this up as arm/leg sunscreen. Very nice if you don't mind the alcohol, but I generally won't recommend this due to the drying effect.

Hada Labo UV SPF50+ PA +++ UV Whitening Emulsion
The consistency, formulation and performance of this "whitening" sunscreen is the same as the sister "non-whitening" UV Moist Emulsion. Practically interchangeable, I don't notice any whitening effect -- immediate or delayed-- whatsoever from this sunscreen.

Mentholatum Sunplay Superblock SPF50+ PA++++
Physical/chemical combo sunscreen in a liquid formula, not unlike the Hada Labo Emulsion. This one is the one I tote around in my handbag as touch-up sunscreen as physical sunscreen kicks in right away to provide block in an instant (v.s. chemical sunscreen that needs time to absorb to be effective). 

As a side note, sunscreen containing high percentage of zinc oxide tends to exacerbate dryness but I found that if you have a good base skin care that is quite occlusive/emollient, this shouldn't be a problem.

Cleanser and Toner

LRP Toleriane Dermo-Nettoyant
I try this one against Avene Gentle Skin Cleanser (still using this one) and I found LRP version to be a bit more drying and stinging, especially to peeling skin (post retin-A initiation, which I usually lay-off during summer months and re-start in the Fall). This is a no-go for me. Cleansing-wise, I think it does decent job removing your non-waterproof makeup, so long as you use a washcloth to remove it and double cleanse after.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid
.. was a staple product but now I switch to her Resist BHA liquid line (same strength), which has a less-tacky finish compared to this one. 


Lifeline Recovery Night Moisture Serum with Stem-Cell Extract
A thin, yellow liquid (almost bright), smells like yoghurt that was beyond its past-date. Ugh! Was this product still ok? -- especially when the web review said the serum smells good. Should I even use it? Used it anyway, liberally over cleansed face & neck. Fast absorbing with tightening sensation, but not moisturizing at all. Within a few minutes, I got red, itchy patches on my skin. Nuff said, I washed my face and ditch this sample.

Perricone Formula 15
A thin, yellow-beige liquid that spreads nicely thin, leaves matte, dry finish after a few minutes. The tightening effect was immediate and it felt tingling, which was not a good thing for me: it left about 2-3 welts which disappear throughout the day, but welts are still welts!
The scent was initially herbaceous turned meaty/protein-ey (aka ick!) which did not dissipate. I followed with moisturizer per website's suggestion. I didn't notice any diminishment in my "eleven" or fine lines around my eyes, but their study is based on 4-week treatment. Alas, this sample only lasted me 2-3times of facial + neck application. Based on the welts alone, this one is another ditch for me.

NeoCurtis Bio-Cream PSP
A nice, real-deal cream that was immediately comfortable on the skin with that after-glow effect; however, it, again, left welts around my face, also redness on my cheek. After about 3-4 hours, my face started to feel tightened but looked greasy at the same time. WTH?? In any case, I used the eye cream version from this same company with great result -- highly recommended from my derm's office. I'm not sure what to make of this sample try out but judging from the price, I probably won't get this product anytime soon.

Caudalie Vinexpert Firming Serum
This nice-smelling serum has a liquid thin consistency. It felt immediately tightening but not moisturizing (my skin ached for a drink of moisturizer after this serum). It did not irritate the skin, surprisingly! but probably won't purchase this as the effect was only temporary.

Chantecaille Flower Infused Cleansing Milk
Pleasantly rose-scented cleansing milk, but the sample so skimpy, it was barely enough to do a double-cleanse. It left my face super soft. It did not irritate my skin and the texture was thick enough to dissolve silicone-based makeup + sunscreen -- it felt cushiony & somewhat cocooning. Very impressed!

Chantecaille Bamboo and Hibiscus Exfoliating Cream
The thin cream smelled like yoghurt + some herbaceous stuff. I applied this on DAMP skin (if not the product can be rather draggy) and kept on massaging for 1-2 minutes. It contained small scrubbing particles "bamboo powder" that was quite gritty (not the smooth, soft sphere kind), reminiscent of Philosophy Microdelivery Peel (which uses diatomaceous earth). I really hope they use bamboo powder for the sake of environment. Afterwards, my face felt smooth and tight but pink all over (red on the neck) similar to chemical burn (or maybe mechanical abrasion?). A no buy for me.

Chantecaille Nano Gold Energizing Cream
I don't know if my sample was an old one and the product has separated but this thick cream looked like a gold emulsion (with visible gold oil separating from the cream). It went on smoothly and since it was so thick, a little goes a long way. This balmy cream absorbed quickly and leave non-tacky finish. I don't like the gold microglitter, eventhough it may be real gold because it does glint and transfer everywhere. It gives an illusion of brightening.. if I squint. Not irritating, no redness, blotchiness, maybe slight itchiness that dissapears.

Kate Somerville Dilo Oil
This is one sample I really enjoy. Tt does what facial oil supposed to do, which retains hydration in the skin, it smells good, and leave a minimally "greasy finish." It does not react with my skin, certainly a great addition to regular moisturizer.

Chantecaille Bio Lifting Neck Cream
Minimally scented but one thing that made me toss this sample faster than I opened it is the inclusion of alcohol in the formulation. It does have a little bit of tightening effect, again due to alcohol and film-former, but a big no for me.

Chantecaille Retinol Intense in Marine Nanospheres
A nice, rather thin cream but not significant amount to produce/see any result -- of course, samples are intended to see if the skin would react before purchasing the full-size product. I didn't get any reaction from this cream but the price point is quite prohibitive for the scanty amount of retinol it contains.

Best Face Forward Natural Serum Oil
This one is a worthy addition to my skin care routine. The sample size is quite generous that I was able to use this for a full two weeks with great result. I will do a separate review/comparison of this with Sunday Riley Juno.

Have you used any of the above products?


MOTW: Stop Press!

My two beauty worlds collided when Lisa Eldridge published her latest tutorial featuring Korean Beauty, complete with the gwang and all! From my wanton addiction to kimchi to interest (bordering obsession) in Asian beauty, when I travel to Korea, I will be so ready and organized with a shopping list and an extra suitcase.. o.k., maybe an extra carry-on handbag. If only I can read some Korean and find Korean beauty magazines here..

Originally, I have another MOTW look prepared for this week but I just can't resist the Lisa + Korean Beauty allure, I must recreate the look, right now. Well, right now turned into a few days, after a steady binge of gazillion video makeup tutorial by Jung Saem Mool, a celebrity Korean makeup artist with her own reputation. So, here's my take on Korean beauty for this week's MOTW.

  • The gwang skin calls for Charlote Tilbury Magic Cream as base and Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Tinted Treatment Moisturizer in 102 (both products not shown, AP-TM is a sample from the newly revamped local Sephora, now carrying brands like AP, Dr. Jart+, Sunday Riley, SKII and much more. Yay!) The tint of the AP-TM is spot on but the it is a tad too pink/peach on my yellow skin. These two product combo produced enough gwang that adding a highlighter would probably be too much.
  • Clinique Airbrush Concealer is used to conceal undereyes.
  • I pat the peach cream blush from Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar On The Go in Breakfast at Tiffany's to mimic barely-there, dewy flush.
  • Lisa is right about Korean-trend eye makeup: they are perhaps not the star of the attraction, although I think it is no less complicated  step-wise than regular Western-style eye makeup.
    For more detail on that, I turned to Jung Saem Mool's tutorials. The theme of her eye makeup is light-to-deep gradation of color toward the lash line, followed by tight-lining and mascara. JSM often used cream eye shadow as base, followed by powder shadow (mostly shimmery and of yellow/gold/peach base) on top, then a deeper color to smudge right above the lash line.
    To simplify the look and to safe some time, I do away with the gradation. Instead, I use Becca Eye Tint in Baroque as base, followed by a touch of the shimmery bronze-gold of Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar On The Go in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I found this combo solve the creasing problem I had with CT cream shadow (same effect can be achieved with something like MAC Paint Pots in Painterly, shown above). I finish the eyes by tight-lining using Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color Smoky Eyes Pencil in Smoky Black and a few coats of MAC False Lash Mascara sample (which I found to be neither lengthening, nor volumizing).
  • Gradated lips is yet another Korean trend that I see at JSM's video again and again, and Lisa is right on the money. In JSM's videos, lip lines are always "erased" using foundation or concealer, before filling in with color. I found this erased lip line looking a bit odd on me. So first, I prep my lips with balm of choice, dot some Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids in Vivid Rose 875 (a coral-y cousin to the NARS Lip Satin Luxembourg) right in the middle of the lips, and rub my lips together to create the gradation naturally.
This cushion product that Lisa mentioned in the video, seems to be the trend for Korean BB/foundation. While touted as new, I think it is a reincarnation of Stila Sport Pivotal Skin Foundation (anyone out there remember this??) and from my experience, at least the Stila version, it had the tendency to sink into dry patches of the skin due to its thin-watery-silicony texture: think of it as pouring a bottle of Giorgio Armani Maestro foundation into a sponge, and housing it in an air-tight compact. Maybe technology has advanced since Stila's day and I saw a few in the market, such as from Laneige at Target, Amore Pacific and Dr. Jart+ at Sephora. Do you have any suggestion for a good BB bouncy/cushion foundation for dry skin? Also, what is your favorite Korean beauty brand? 

Wishing everyone a wonderful week ahead!


Glossier Phase 1 Set: A Review

Back in Fall I was intrigued when the Instagram was flooded with this #glossier hashtag. A spin off enterprise from the popular Into the Gloss, these products promise to "... reset(ting) the beauty game, starting with the most important thing: a perfectly primed canvas."

My skin is fairly ok, apart from the sunken places and the age spots that I get more and more comfortable with each year. I decided to order the whole Phase 1 set with the Light Skin tint and I've been using these for about a good three months now.

I like the minimalistic concept of Phase 1 Set. All products are without frills, and that means they are also unscented (YAY!!) The packaging is bare bottom but they include cute stickers (which in my case was snagged right away by the Tod before I could photograph it). While the bubble-padded zip bags are quite useful for traveling, the black "Glossier" tote is quite flimsy.

Here are the products, ranked from the one I like the most to the least. Ingredient lists are available from their website: glossier.com

Priming Moisturizer
This is perhaps the most-used product, in fact the replacement for the Kate Somerville Goat's Milk Cream. The thin cream consistency can almost pass as lotion, with a very hydrating effect that will evaporate if you have dry skin (like me) and don't use anything else on top. I use this as part of the "moisture sandwich" after layers of serums and exfoliant but before sunscreen and makeup. It does what it says: it gives moisture and plumps the skin. A winner, definitely will repurchase (unless I found something better).

Soothing Face Mist
Super basic: rose water and some humectant mixed in. Beware this will sting the eyes, even if it does not get into it (like if you spray them near the lids and some of them get into the eyes). A lovely addition to enrich on the "moisture sandwich." This one beats Caudalie Beauty Elixir spray hands down (Caudalie spray stings like heck on my skin). No other scent besides rose.

Balm Dot Com
A glorified version of Aquaphor, thanks to the addition of silicones which gives it a little glide and less tack. It does not hydrate my dry lips but it does protect rough dry skin, cuticles, etc from peeling further.

Perfecting Skin Tint
The most expensive yet the weakest link of this bunch, this skin tint has almost no coverage yet manage to accentuate dry patches on my skin. This product could have been a good one with the addition of SPF (at least 30) but alas, this has none. The consistency is that of water-silicone blend, very thin, very watery. I ordered shade Light but even Medium would probably work on me due to the sheer coverage. Definitely pass if you are looking for any amount of coverage at all.

THM: Definitely will repurchase the Priming Moisturizer, maybe the Soothing Face Mist, but will skip the rest. Looking forward to Phase 2!!


MOTW: First Date Makeup

DodoCase by J.Crew (old)

Are you, like me, are also excited that Lisa Eldridge is now the Makeup Creative Director of Lancome? O.k. let's talk about this for a second. Michelle Phan was never my cuppa, much too young for my taste. However, I must agree that both Michelle and Lisa have more things in common internet-wise, so the move to hire Lisa is a smart one by Lancome. My first bonafide lipstick was a Lancome but after that, I think I only have bought their mascaras and perfume. In fact, I dig in my stash for any Lancome products to showcase on this week's MOTW, I found none. With Lisa at the helm, I look forward to more good things form the brand. Finally, I can't help but to notice the discussion on Lisa's FB about animal testing: while I am for the welfare of animals, I think it a bit naive and perhaps unfair to bring up the issue on the Creative Director of Makeup. The decision of animal testing goes way above at the corporate and/or government level, the politics of which are far beyond reach of some of the most visible figures of the brand. 'Nuff said.

This week, to celebrate Lisa's appointment, I'm recreating the tutorial that hooked me to her channel: the First Date makeup.

The Mary Pickford anecdote is utterly charming, the look is timeless, the rest is history. The look is perfect by itself (to me, at least) I found it hard to improve upon. Even the black liner (instead of my usual dark brown) provides an added punch to a very subtle eye look.

My links are never affiliate, they are provided for your convenience.

  • Cover FX Natural Finish Oil Free Foundation (not shown) is the latest foundation I'm currently testing. I got pot samples from Sephora where I mix shade N10 and G20, which is, so far, the perfect shade on my winter skin. The coverage is buildable and quite amazing -- in lieu of concealer, I just layer a bit more where needed. Sadly, I know it won't work on my skin for the long run since the formula is a bit dry and draggy. This is where an emollient base with tacky-wet finish (like CT's Magic Cream) would help.
  • Burberry Fresh Glow is a befitting highlighter, as the foundation's natural finish is begging to be illuminized. The secret to making the most out of the Fresh Glow is to apply it when the base is still fresh and moist. 
  • By Terry Cellularose Blush Glace in 01 Rose Melba is, as I said before, good skin in a pot. In fact, I can skip highlighter and just use this.
  • Eyes are done per Lisa's direction, with Revlon Colorstay 24 Hour in In The Buff (y'all know this is my fave), and Giorgio Armani Smooth Silk Eye Pencil 04 Black to dot on my upper lash lines. A coat of Little Witch Mascara and mesmerizing eyes are done.
  • Lips are dressed with a slick of Lunasol Full Glamour Lips 17 Dull Soft Pink.

So I want to know, what was your first date; first date ever or first date with your current partner? PapaLorp and I were in disagreement about our first date, mind you it's been a loooong time ago. Wishing you all a great week ahead!


Charlotte's Magic Cream

Do you notice the jar? I used up almost more than half.

When Charlotte Tilbury said that it wasn't her who called the cream as "magic," one must remember that the moniker was coined by the runaway models: aka teen girls who naturally have plump, collagen-filled skins. When I was a teenager, I hardly need any cream to plump up my skin. None of us did. (As a reference, my current skin is dry, and dehydrated -especially in the winter).

Charlotte's Magic Cream is another one of CT product I ordered back in the beginning of December and I've been using this almost daily. I can tell you with certainty that there is hardly any magic in this cream, but if you are looking for an emollient cream, which gives that tacky finish as makeup base, this one fits the bill. Right away, this cream reminds me of the many Bobbi Brown skin creams (particularly the Hydrating Face Cream, Vitamin Enriched Face Base, etc), the consistency down right to the scent (fresh cucumber-y rose). I have not compared ingredients, but I think BB tends to include petrolatum products in her creams, whereas this one is without. The price points are almost the same. And those who knows BB skin care, they are designed to be makeup base. So, coincidence??

The SPF 15 is dismal: I never trust that it delivers any kind of protection, but lately, the UV index here has been 0 out of 10, so this is enough even for the day. Foundations do glide a lot smoother with this underneath. It is quite emollient without being too waxy/oily -- it has the balance of giving moisture and retaining moisture at the same time. The glow comes from the texture as there is no inclusion of mica (or any shimmer particle) listed on the ingredients. I've decanted this into a small pot in my handbag and this is nice to have as a touch up after workout or even as hand cream.

THM: Not a must-have but an unexpected love. I've finished almost half a pot.

BONUS!! How I read ingredient list.

First, I locate the ingredients that I know as preservative, the very first one down the list. In this case, it is the phenoxyethanol (marked with red dots above). Second, I google the name with the term "rate of usage" or "usage rate" so in this case, I typed "phenoxyethanol rate of usage" in the search box. Third, most of the time, you'll be able to locate an MSDS/material spec sheet about the ingredients from the supplier. From phenoxyethanol, I found this.

This confirms what I know so far about preservative: that is should not be used in a rate more than 1% (either v/v or w/v or w/w is unclear, but we all agree than less than 1% is quite small). Thus any ingredients that comes after phenoxyethanol in the above-mentioned product (in this case CT Magic Cream) basically exist in extremely minute amount, aka.. legal "filler" for marketing purposes. 

So, the "BioNymph Peptide Complex ... a unique, patented anti-age ingredient that multi-tasks in the skin, fighting the ageing process on all fronts?" Nah.. we know better than that.


MOTW: New Year, New NARS Lip Pencil

One day shortly before the craziness of holiday begun, I visited a friend of mine who just had a baby. She is one of those stunning, exotic beauty of South Asian descend (I think of her as my own personal Mrs. Amal Clooney), with a deep, rich, mocha brown skin that glows from within. The baby was cute but What's on your lips? I asked. You asking me? Girl, where have you been? This is NARS satin lip pencil! she said.

I must admit I was a bit embarrassed. Me, the self-proclaimed beauty junky but never have purchased or even tried the trendy NARS Lip extravaganza (the satin lip pencil, the matte lip pencil, the audacious lipstick, what else am I missing?), and she's the mom-of-two-under-five friend who just gave birth, sporting the trend on her lips. I just had to ask and her color was Luxembourg.

NARS Satin Lip Pencil is drying, but the redeeming quality is the tenacious stain. I just rub the heck out of it on the lips, "down to the base of the carpet" a la Lisa E. herself, then blot, then apply the Aerin Lip Conditioner on top. The result lasts all day on me and I just keep touching up with the Aerin balm. Luxembourg is one of those colors that will look stunning among many skin tones, but especially the fair and the deep ones. It makes for a bold statement lip, but can also give away to a nice, juicy, watermelon stain which is totally wearable for preschool run. The formula & color range reminds me a lot of Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids, so if you can find a good color fit in Maybelline Vivids range, I'd say you can skip on the NARS.

The round up:

  • Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream in a decanted pot (review to come -- turn out to be a surprise, new love!)
  • Chantecaille Just Skin in Bliss -- an old love.
  • Stila Convertible Color in Lillium -- a beige-pink to offset the bright lip yet rendering a bit of color on the already-color-drained face.
  • Clinique Airbrush Concealer
  • By Terry Ombre Blackstar in Frozen Quarts
  • Charlotte Tilbury Powder Eye Pencil in Audrey
  • Chanel Le Volume de Chanel Mascara

The whole thing fits into a Truffle Clarity knock-off bag that I've got way back as a gift from Maquia magazine. 

I'm excited to get back in the groove after the no-vacation "vacation." Wishing you all a great week ahead!!


Living Below Our Means: Clutter-free Living

Of all my blog posts, surprisingly, I got a lot of visits on posts about living below our means. I am happy to learn that there are like-minded people out there who strive to live life more mindfully and while my musings in this topic are nothing to write home about, I hope to provoke thoughts and perhaps add to the discussion of mindful living.

There is something about winter and New Year that inspires that blank-slate mentality. While I am one who never believed in New Year resolution or such, a book has landed on my lap with a voice so true, it reverberates my very sentiment about life and things.

"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (link is not affiliate, click away with abandon) is not your garden-variety organizational/clutter-buster book. If you are looking for tips on how to organize things, skip this one. If you are looking for how to throw things out, you'll be in or a disappointment. This book elevates de-cluttering to reverence of all things inanimate, something that is a thoroughly foreign concept to many "Westerner" yet the truth speaks and leaps from its pages.

Look at the number of holds at my local public library for this book!

In one sentence, Marie Kondo (the author -- pronounced marié マリエ) has summed up something that I know to be true in my heart but could not find the words to express before:

"I had been so focused on what to discard, on attacking the unwanted obstacles around me, that I had forgotten to cherish the things that I loved, the things I wanted to keep."

So many theories/techniques about clutter-busting is all about discarding or stash reduction, but truly, and perhaps more importantly, we need to decide what to keep. This tiny paradigm shift can bring about a huge change on how we look at de-cluttering. Not only that, this book compels me to try the method and see the result for myself.

First of all, what is clutter? Well, it is a slippery slope to discuss about clutter in a household with small children. But this is what I think: every thing in a house should have a purpose, and when a thing ceases to have a purpose but is not let go, the thing turns into clutter. For example, toys played once in a while, while cluttering the physical space the living room, is not clutter. The toys still have their purpose and will simply be stored back after use. A magazine, neatly stacked in a visually-pleasing magazine rack, but has been read and probably won't be read again, is a clutter. It has ceased to have its purpose.

Marie instructed the order of de-cluttering. She started with things that are easy to de-clutter: clothing, then books, etc. until you arrive at things that are the hardest to de-clutter, such as momento and pictures (or for me, that would be the Tod's art from school). The reason to this order is because de-cluttering (or as she said, tidying) is a moment-by-moment decision making, in that you decide which article of clothing "sparks joy." Each object presents you with a gift: a chance for you to hone your decision-making skill, to let go of the past attachment or fear of future needs. Each object presents you with a new opportunity to decide, an exercise to sharpen that intuition, until you arrive at the hardest object to let go, which by then, you are ready to make your decision.

I've mentioned before how I feel about my makeup collection. When I get a chance to open my makeup drawer, every items jumps with excitement, ready to be used and I am excited about thinking up looks to wear for the week. With clothing, well, I thought I did good, I mean really good. My clothing is always on rotation, my ten-item wardrobe hardly changes, all my items are of the best quality I can afford, and to start with, my closet was not at all looked cluttered. Still, I faithfully follow the instruction of the book. One sunny morning, I unloaded my entire clothing onto my bed. These were just the tops -- even I was surprised on how much I have.

These were just tops: t-shirts, shirts, sweaters, work-out tops, etc.

About an hour into de-cluttering, taking each article of clothing one by one on my hand and asking myself if this "sparks joy," I was mentally exhausted. With each clothing, my mind reasoned, "But I need this someday!" or "I just bought this one" or "No way I can let this go, this is still good!" or "Oh no, this is the sweater I wore when I ...X,Y,Z --insert your special occasion here--." I knew I was going nowhere. I needed some help, big time.

This was how much I've managed to let go in the first agonizing hour. Still just the tops. More to come: bottoms, dresses, underwear, accessories, coats and bags.

So, I stepped back, ate some snack, put on makeup (since I wasn't out that morning yet), and re-read the book. Marie suggested that we "talk" to our belongings. Yes, talk. Perhaps a bit weird to some of you, but I do talk a lot to my car, "Thanks for being so reliable today!" or to my orchids, "Please don't die on me!" or to my tea, "Goodness gracious, you are soooo delicious!" Talking to my belongings was actually the most logical-illogical thing to do: our belongings are here to share one common purpose of to be of use to us. When a thing cease to be of use, it needs to be freed. This, I know to be true, that when I give up a certain possession that I cling to, a space will open and a new opportunity will be able to come into life. If life is cluttered with things, there is no room for anything new to come in.

Round two, I came back and started talking to my clothes, "Please, let me know if you want out of this house. I'll gladly let you go." Just like magic, emotions started to flow. One by one, I was able to let go items that no longer spark joy: the trendy woolen short that I wore to celebrate my new job, the delicate angora fair-isle sweater that I wore to a cherished museum event, the stained blouse that I wore again and again because I love it so much, the pair of pants I hardly worn but kept it just in case, an out-of-date, 15-year-old merino twin set that still wears like iron, several of my navy/grey/black sweaters.

I ended up with four large garbage bag full of clothing to donate. That also included accessories, coats, socks, bags, other clothing items I put in my closet.

And now my closet looks like this. This is all of my clothing. Nothing is stored in off-season storage. Not shown are my coats, which I store downstairs in a coat closet (I keep a total of 6 coats: a pea coat, a puffer vest, a puffer jacket, a trench, a dress woolen coat, and a rain coat).

Storage from IKEA Antonius system.
The top two drawers contain all my underwear, socks, and hosiery. Scarves and winter things are in the two tubs right above. The dresses and hanging-things are hung where they are. There is about a foot recess toward the left-hand side of the closet where I hung my suits, blazers, special occasion dresses, and trousers.

The Tod's off-season clothing is next. Oy vey...
My sweaters are all laid out nicely in two drawers.

I keep 16 sweaters in total. I think I can let go some of these more, but they are in-season items, so I tend to use them in regular basis.
One drawer holds all my t-shirt, both for spring/summer and fall/winter.

Cotton tops all in one drawer.
Along the way, there are clothing that needs some TLC but I decided to keep rather than tossing them away (which was easier); one needs mending from a small tear, another needs de-staining, yet another (linen blouse) needs ironing. When I consider all the clothing I keep and the responsibility to maintain them: it takes a lot of time and energy, time and energy that, often, I don't have! This is the true cost of ownership: taking care of belonging mindfully. If it takes a lot of effort to maintain each items, the item might as well be something that one would like to wear daily with joy!

Clutter-free living is not all about minimalism or even deprivation. Marie mentioned that there will be a set point of the amount of belongings that feels comfortable to each person. Only you can decide how much is comfortable to you, because with this method, the yard stick is your own personal feelings toward your belonging, "does this item spark joy?" It is, above all, choosing mindfully the objects that surround our daily lives. The more I do this, the more I realize I really don't need much -- in terms of money, or amount -- to live a comfortable, meaningful life. I only need those objects that elevate the quality of my life, each one of them, everyday.

More tips to make your de-cluttering go more smoothly:
  • Burn a candle, your favorite one. Put on your favorite music. Get in your groove or do whatever necessary to achieve that "flow" state of mind.
  • De-clutter alone. Family members are not only distractions but can pose that guilty, the-need-to-editing feeling. They don't need to know what's in the bag (Marie said so, too).
  • Eat snacks, fuel yourself. This process is draining, mentally and physically. (Duh!). But, I noticed that I gained energy back after de-cluttering, it was almost like a breath of fresh air filling the entire room.
  • Go with your first gut feeling. If in limbo, pile the item in a stack, and go over each one again after you went through everything. The idea is to get down to that gut feeling level. Each clothing should take no longer than a few seconds to decide. When an item sparks joy, you know. You know it the way your heart flutter when you first saw an item that you so desired. 

No items sparks joy? No worries. Any gap only means opportunity for mindful-ahem shopping, or to see if you can live without. I ended up with just four long-sleeved t-shirt in my entire closet, the four that "sparked" the most joy (read: no holes, stains, stretching, stinks, etc). Only four. C'mon, how much "joy" can you get from looking at layering t-shirt? They are items of necessities, not a sparkling, LE Suqqu Quad! At first, I was panicked, what if I need more t-shirt, aargh??!! But truth to be told, I never need more than these four, and these four have been on rotation for two seasons. That panic feeling is the reason I hang on to so many others, and when I let them go, I also let the feeling go. 

Have you tried de-cluttering method? Did it work for you? Do you feel you are "swimming" in objects in your daily life (like having a closet-full of clothing but still nothing to wear)? What has worked for you in the past or what hasn't?